Category Archives: Art

Gran Torino

Clint Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski in his latest movie Gran Torino. Walt is a racist, grumpy, angry conservative who has a hardened heart. The movie starts with his wife’s recent death. Walt lives in a run-down area of town that is overrun with gangs and other “bad” influences. His relationship with his two sons and their families is terrible.

A family of Hmong (Mong) people move in next door and the racial slurs come fast and furious from Walt. The problems begin when a local Mong gang starts terrorizing the family next door to Walt. Walt takes matters into his own hands and begins to cause problems for the gang while protecting the family members. The Hmong people look at Walt as a hero and start to treat him that way. He initially cannot stand the attention but slowly begins to soften. Ultimately, he befriends two of the older children and becomes a father figure to one.

The story really is about the emerging of a good man from a hardened exterior. The good was always there, but until the events with the Hmong family transpire, there was no way for the good to come out.

Clint Eastwood does an amazing job at portraying the gradual change from grumpy bastard to someone who can express their emotions truthfully. I’m surprised that he didn’t get any nominations for either the movie or his character interpretation.

There is some violence portrayed but it’s not overdone at all. I highly recommend the movie.

Michael

Musicians

Elivis Costello hosts a new show on the Sundance Channel called Spectacle: Elvis Costello with…. Each episode features another musician (Elton John, Lou Reed, James Taylor), with whom Costello performs and discusses that musician’s musical tastes and process.

I’ve just watched the James Taylor episode. I loved James Taylor starting in high school, when a friend of mine introduced me to his music. Every quality that I loved is on display in this televised hour: thoughtfulness, humor, insight, confession, and musicianship.

The show is great fun to watch because Costello, a talented musician with extremely varied musical taste, happily focuses on his guest’s likes and dislikes and shares his admiration with the studio audience.

It’s always a treat for me to listen to successful artists discuss how they create and, in this case, how they perform. Taylor talks about the profound shock of being a singer-songwriter emerging from the introspection of writing into the spotlight of a pop star’s fame. It is what you work for, he says, and then when it gets there, you realize that the product is not so much the music as the self, and you can get a little lost. He says, specifically, “Hang onto your hat.”

He also says that he understands the cult of celebrity as an effort by ordinary people to use celebrities to represent them in the wider world. Fascinating.

Tonight, the intimacy of the music and the connection between the two aging musicians represented for me both my aspirations as an artist (which I have to admit may come to nothing) and my thirst for collaborators.

Watch the show if you are a music lover of a certain age.

Artfully Inspired

It was great to be surrounded by a plethora of artists here in the Houston, Texas Bayou City Arts Festival for two days. The amount of creativity was extraordinary. Paintings, sculpture, photography, glass works, jewelry, wood works, textiles and mixed media were spread out over several city blocks.

I was really inspired not only in my own creative pursuits in photography but in other areas of my life. The large number of vendors opened up my mind to new ideas and concepts. They were a catalyst in shifting my perspective about what is possible and more importantly what I am capable of accomplishing.

I’m always amazed at what the human mind can think and create. The possibilities are truly endless. Seeing the evidence crammed into a small geographical made for an exciting weekend.

I’m looking forward to seeing what will happen.

Look for creativity and you will find it. Practice creativity and you will become it.

Michael

Thursdays on Thames

Lead Guitar Player

Lead Guitar Player

Since I’ve been off from work since the August 15th, I needed a relaxing evening to unwind. :-)

So, I drove down to Newport, RI this afternoon to meet Erica for the “Thursday on Thames” evening. This is a fun packed evening with a variety of free music, food and discounts in many retail stores. The Lower Thames Business Association puts on this event for several Thursdays in a row during the summer.

I particularly liked the band called The Buddy Roach Trio. The guitar player was very good and I liked their generally fast paced jazz music. There were three other bands down the street all playing different types of music. It was a lot of fun to check out each venue. Plus we got to taste some good food as we moved along the street.

The Rest of the Band

The Rest of the Band

The streets were filled with a decent number of people. I always enjoying going to these kinds of events. They help take the mind off the normal day to day activities and help to get to a happier place.

I especially like the local events of cities and towns. There usually is a much more intimate feel to them and the people seem to be a bit closer.

A real bonus was that the weather was almost perfect. Partly cloudy, cool air, low humidity and a lovely sunset. You can’t go wrong there.

Michael

For the Love of Dance

Morgan at Joffrey WorkshopKids: they dance before they learn there is anything that isn’t music. – William Stafford

There are short-cuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them. – Vicki Baum

Dancing with the feet is one thing, but dancing with the heart is another. – Author Unknown

I don’t want people who want to dance, I want people who have to dance. – George Balanchine

As I said yesterday, I flew into Austin to see my niece dance after working hard in the three week Joffrey Ballet Workshop held in San Antonio, TX every year.

Well, I haven’t seen her dance in almost two years and the progress she has made is dramatic. There were moments where she seemed to defy gravity and float across the stage. How does she do that? I was very impressed.

It’s obvious she enjoys dancing. The glint in her eyes gives it away. The other thing I love is that she is fulfilling a dream. I believe when you do that, your life fundamentally changes in very positive ways. Thanks Morgan! You’ll be bringing a lot of joy to many people with your dancing ability. That’s a really good thing.

A bonus for me: I got to practice some technically challenging photography; i.e. low light, lots of movement and etc. Very fun!

Have a great day!

Michael

WALL-E

Erica and I went to see WALL-E on Monday night. Pixar has done a remarkable job with this film. The animation is superb, detailed and realistic. The character of WALL-E is completely fascinating. You will really believe that he has become partially human.

The movie was uplifting and made us smile and laugh many times. It was quite easy to connect with the characters. WALL-E also highlights possible consequences of our actions as a species on this planet. Nothing wrong with that. Anything to get us thinking about where we are going and what we are doing is okay by me.

I think all ages should see this G rated movie. Enjoy. Smile. Laugh. Be entertained. Think a little.

Have a great day!

Michael

Remembering George Carlin – Part 2

There will be a rain dance Friday night, weather permitting. – George Carlin

I’ve collected a few YouTube videos highlighting some of George’s funnier performances. Again, if you are offended by any his videos, please stop watching. :-)

Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television – Very explicit language! So, be warned now. (10:38 minutes)

All About “Stuff” – Self-explanatory. (5:09 minutes)

On Soft Language – How words and phrases have changed over time. (6:55 minutes) – Very good

Airport Security – Love this one. (8:02 minutes)

Baseball and Football – Differences and some similarities. (4:48 minutes)

The Sanctity of Life – May be religiously offensive to some. (3:45 minutes)

We Like War – Hmmmmm. (2:56 minutes)

Our Similarities – Very good one. (7:52 minutes)

Things that come off your Body – Some gross stuff here, but funny. (10:54 minutes)

I hope you enjoyed these. Here’s to George!

Michael

Remembering George Carlin – Part 1

I was sad to see that George Carlin recently passed away. He was one of my favorite comedians of all times. In celebration of his comic genius I’ve gathered some of what I think are his funniest quotes. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. Some may trip over the edge of what you may personally find acceptable. All I can is just read past them quickly and move on to the next one. :-)

“I am” is reportedly the shortest sentence in the English language. Could it be that “I do” is the longest sentence?

I have as much authority as the Pope, I just don’t have as many people who believe it.

If God had intended us not to masturbate he would’ve made our arms shorter.

Some people see things that are and ask, Why? Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not? Some people have to go to work and don’t have time for all that ...

The very existence of flame-throwers proves that some time, somewhere, someone said to themselves, You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I’m just not close enough to get the job done.

By and large, language is a tool for concealing the truth.

What does it mean to pre-board? Do you get on before you get on?

When someone is impatient and says, “I haven’t got all day,” I always wonder, How can that be? How can you not have all day?

Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.

Death is caused by swallowing small amounts of saliva over a long period of time.

I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, “Where’s the self-help section?” She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.

There’s no present. There’s only the immediate future and the recent past.

I was thinking about how people seem to read the Bible a whole lot more as they get older; then it dawned on me . . they’re cramming for their final exam.

The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live.

Michael

Into the Wild

Sean Penn directed this incredible but tragic story of Christopher McCandless. Chris graduates from college and promptly leaves his middle class family, gives away all his money and starts to explore a life without responsibility or obligation.

Into the Wild tells the tale of one man’s determination to experience each moment fully conscious. He touches many people and in turn is touched by many also. Emile Hirsch plays Christopher brilliantly. This had to be a difficult part to play because most of the time, his character is the only one on the screen.

Erica and I watched this movie last Thursday and I’m still thinking about it after four days. There is a lot to absorb. The rest of this post contains spoilers for this movie. If you are planning on watching it, don’t read any further.

Near the end of his life, Chris has a realization which is that “Happiness is only real when shared.” I’m still questioning this statement in my head after several days of thinking about it. I have believed that true happiness only comes from within without dependencies on external influences. So, I’ve been trying to blend these two concepts together.

Can happiness be real without sharing with others? I believe so, but I do know that when two or more share their happiness, the synergistic effect is much more than the sum of its parts.

I’ll be thinking more about this in the future; probably a lot more.

Michael

Postsecret

Frank Warren, the creator of the PostSecret series of books and the postsecret.com website, is speaking tonight in Fort Collins.

I read the first book when it came out in 2005. Entitled “PostSecret“, Warren begins his introduction “In November 2004, I printed 3,000 postcards inviting people to share a secret with me: something that was true, something they had never told anyone.”  He left the postcards in art galleries and library books, and the preaddressed postcards started arriving in his mailbox.

The books are full of secrets.  The response has been and continues to be overwhelming.  Checkout the website and I’ll be back after the presentation to tell more.

Flo